A television-quality videotape of three men with assault rifles unleashing a barrage of gunfire at two men in a car wash parking lot was described by police last summer as a rare lucky break against New Orleans’ vicious cycle of violence.
The video footage was not enough to convince a judge to proceed with the case, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter ordered the release of the three suspects after prosecutors presented no additional evidence to identify the suspects.
At the time of the shooting, in which two 36-year-old men were seriously wounded, the tape was hailed as a major breakthrough for detectives, even as it served as a harrowing example of the brazen criminal activity in the city. It helped spark a major initiative by officials to install video cameras in strategic locations in hopes of deterring crime or filming culprits in action.
The rare footage of a shooting-in-progress appeared to mark the case as a strong one, but it quickly became apparent that prosecutors did not have a slam-dunk. Hearings were postponed at the request of prosecutors when the victims got cold feet and refused to show up in court.
Two defense attorneys in the case said Hunter rebuffed prosecutors when they couldn’t produce any witnesses capable of identifying the men in the videotape as the suspects. Robert Jenkins, one defense attorney, said, “The state couldn’t bring anyone forward to identify who these guys are (in the video). Either you have the witnesses or you don’t, and they didn’t.”